Just South of the strip

Greetings from Boulder City, NV which turns out to be a desirable place to stay while Paul flies home to Rochester for a few days. Las Vegas looms large just to the North. I thought its proximity would spoil everything within 100 miles of the Gambling strip. I was proven wrong.

Boulder City has much to offer: from the historic downtown and the Boulder Dam Hotel, to Lake Mead, (still popular even though the water level is almost at a record low—drought and heavy demand) and an abundance of great choices for extensive hiking, biking and kayaking. Oh yes, and there are casinos, golf, dining and spas in town. Let’s not forget the delightful weather (at least in early spring before the 100F+ degrees begin. Besides all of these reasons, the folks here are super-friendly and anxious to tell a strange about their chosen place to live—most folks seem to be imports. Here are photos of a popular watering hole and a quilting shop called Tumbleweed that would be a Mecca for my quilting friends.
To fill my time while Paul was traveling, I chose to hike the railroad tunnel trail alongside Lake Mead. The railroad tunnels are a remnant of the dam construction in the 1930’s now sans the tracks. The sky was deep blue and the temperature 78F. My arrival time driving to the trailhead was delayed by the traffic jam waiting to cross the dam. I finally arrived via the start of a left turning lane leading into the park. I drove past at least 4-dozen cars waiting in line at the sign reading “Hoover dam—8 miles.”
Now on the trail, I thoroughly enjoyed the 4 1/2-mile hike to the dam. I am certain I reached the dam, walked part-way across and back and hiked the 4 1/2 miles to return to my car before these folks in their vehicles could park and visit the dam themselves. I am back on the rig, resting my tired legs and happy to have seen the Hoover Dam up close and personal.

From the Strawberry Garden; June, 1946.

“Key management;” this becomes important in our modern lives as we acquire multiple house, many vehicles and businesses. Security is an issue like never before. We have keys of all shapes and sizes, remote electronic keys and keypunch pads. For me, it brings up a memory of simpler times.

The house I grew up in was Circa 1930’s. A front porch spanned the front of the house with 5 steps providing access to the space that fed the over-active imaginations of pre-schoolers shared by my friends and myself. The porch held a round metal table, classic metal rocking chairs that actually bounced, and a classic cushioned glider complete with a loud squeak when moved. A thick, sweet-smelling honeysuckle vine hugged the glider, bringing the promise of spring.

The floors inside were dotted with heating ducts covered with lacey metal covers, a parlor with an upright piano, a stair case complete with “sliding” banister and a musty smelling, walled-in back-staircase and the back door also sported a small porch with its 5 steps. Heavy skeleton keys opened the doors and the water heater groaned into action at the push of a black button.

My dad had converted the large octopus coal-style furnace to gas sometime in the mid 1940’s. Therefore, the former “coal room” was transformed into my playroom; to enjoy my dollhouse, a miniature china tea set, my older brother’s old trucks or ride my tricycle around the large furnace and have plenty of smooth floor to roller skate in the winter.

My mother reigned over the gardens, one forming long and narrow strip between our driveway and the Little family’s driveway. She prized her peonies, strawberry plants and rhododendrons growing in that space. I remember “helping” plant, water and weed.

Of course, the pinnacle event came when the strawberries were ready to pick. They glistened red with dew, almost reaching out to your hand to help you guide their way into your cereal bowl. I was only 4, but I remember the joy of running out the back door, clad in PJ’s, sporting bare feet and stumbling over the stones in the driveway, enduring whatever pain was inflicted by the gravel to reach the dew-covered strawberries. That chubby little girl is me, a bit younger than 4.
Is it possible that the strawberries of memory were sweeter tasting than today’s berries or is it sweeter in memory? Unequivocally, the berries were well tuned with the vintage 1946 corn flakes. I wonder if corn flakes have changed at all in the 60 or so years—perhaps they are the same or now more fully whole grain, full of supplements and nutritionally geared to keep up with the times. (To see a of the history of corn flakes, go to; http://www.ideafinder.com/history/inventions/kelloggcf.htm)

One misty, cool morning looms in my memory. My dad must have been away on tour with the RPO. Mom was in her housecoat. I was pajama clad as above and bare foot. We scooted outside to pick berries. The back door slammed shut, locked and stood solidly closed. I remember innumerable occurrences of being locked out, but later in the day, fully clad and less “desperate.”

To get back in, we always had recourse; two neighbors with skeleton keys that matched our door. We ran next door to the Little’s, fearing awakening them. Then we remembered their two-week trip to the Mountains. Perhaps that meant the Adirondacks or the Catskills.

The Shubener’s, also owned the “right key” but lived 3 doors away. I am sure my mother was highly embarrassed that anyone see her in her housecoat, but I am sure we both traipsed to their door—no answer, no one home. It felt like hours to me, but our problem became smaler when a neighbor in the apartment house across the street saw us looking forlorn. Perhaps we were sitting on the front steps, chins in hands. He returned to his apartment and emerged again holding a huge “jailer” ring of skeleton keys. Success, one of the keys worked and opened our door.

I don’t have the memory, but I am sure my mother showered our neighbor/savior with dew-clad strawberries and excessive thanks. We now added another source in impending peril, a large ring of heavy, gray metal skeleton keys. It just takes patience to find the right one to open our door.

Road, Railroad, Rollin’ Tumbleweed

Everything in life seems to fit into some category or other. Traveling down the road as we do in our motorhome, we observe regional characteristics that we fit into categories of our own designation.

The scenery varies from rolling hills of central New York to the flat plains of the southwest, the huge farms of the food belt, the loblolly pine forests so common in the south, abundant wetlands and lake regions and ocean beaches.
For years we have referred to the three R’s of the roads we traveled as incessant miles of “Road-RR-River.” For miles we would seemingly match pace with trains on the track and boats on the river, running parallel to our road.

Now that we have traveled more extensively in the south, the 3 R’s have taken on a new character; “Road, Railroad & Rollin’ Tumbleweed.” Roads and railroads still remain but the Rivers give way to acre upon acre of arid land, huge open-range ranches, mile after mile of flat dust-blown plains, sometimes made up of plain empty sand or covered with desert brush. Long miles are lined with fences extending into eternity and frequented with plenty of rolling tumbleweed picking up dust and debris as it tumbles in the wind.

Rollin’ tumbleweed? That our path as well, rollin’ down the road. We add and subtract to ourselves, acquiring some dust, dirt and sand but mostly experience, new acquaintances and a collection of endless adventures. Soon, we settle down and stop rollin’ for a while as if the wind stopped pushing and we make ourselves stay put for a night or a week or two. We just have to control our restlessness, settle in and stay out of the wind to stop rolling.

In a rest stop on the way to the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) sites near the Yuma Proving Grounds on the Arizona/California State line, Paul was entranced by a bit of tumbleweed on the move. “It actually makes noise as it rolls.” Not loud, not harsh, not calling for attention as such, just a subtle “swish swish” of a noise, going the way of the wind and whim—just like us. But we have a purpose and learn from what we gather.

Long freight trains graced with double-stacked shipping cars don’t escape our attention. The goods that form our nation are on those trains. Goods meant to fill the big boxes duplicated over and over in every city in our country; goods for building, goods for consumption and supply. It is mind boggling to think of the items that pass by us every day. The push to buy locally, to decrease reliance on importing and trucking goods and the competition by small farmers and manufacturers to ‘beat down the reins” of the large farms and corporations wanting to smother them needs our attention and proper legislation.
It’s time to hook up and get back on the road. What will we acquire today? Hopefully, it will be more wisdom and insight beyond just plain picking up dust and dirt in keeping up with the rollin’ tumbleweed. Perhaps we will see a country moving forward to improved conservation, global relations and better times for all.

Desert snowballs

3/17/08 One reason Paul and I have become RV vagabonds is to escape the cold effects of the winter months. We seek sun, warm temperatures, adventure and the pleasure of meeting a wide variety of people on the road. The winter of 2008 has met all of these expectations.

We departed Los Angeles a few days ago after a glorious visit with our son Yechiel, our daughter in law, Miriam and our adorable grandsons, Azriel and Tal. For once, the weather in LA was warm, sunny and welcoming. Our motor home faced the Pacific Ocean and the beach just a few feet away from our windshield.

After our 12-day visit we departed LA, the busy freeways, the crowds of people all wishing to occupy the same space at the same time and headed northeast for the Mojave Desert Reserve. We have become fans of the deserts of California, the Imperial Valley, Death Valley, Joshua Tree, the Anzo Berrego and more. It was time to try a new location. We found the rustic campsite and set up to camp for several days. What better name could there be for the campground in the Mojave, but “Hole in the Wall”, (from the lore of Butch Cassidy the Sundance Kid and the Hole in the Wall Gang)? Our altitude was at 4000’ above sea level. Arrival time was late on a Thursday afternoon, with brilliant blue sky and the sun playing in the rough peaks and mesas near our campsite. The temperature was in the mid 70’s. We met our neighbors and enjoyed cocktails and conversation together to share our RV experiences.

Having listened to NOAA – the monotone but informative voice of the national weather channel, we knew to expect high winds and cooler temperatures. And that is exactly what we got. Our rig was buffeted and shaken with winds probably up to 45-50 MPH. Being old hands at weather of all kinds, we brought in our slides and battened down all “hatches.” With no hook ups at this campground, we were dry camping and loving it.

The wind whipped at us during the 4 days we were there. We had plenty of company including tenters. But, we remember our days of tenting and thinking this was heaven. (in case you think we are completely out of our minds, there were times when we would keep the tent in back of the station wagon and seek the nearest and greatest B & B for our comfort and staying warm and dry.) These folks did not have that choice; our location was very remote indeed.
Our minds were made up not to miss a trick or attraction in the Mojave now that we were embraced by its beauty and smack in the middle of the Reserve. Our days included visiting an historic town called Kelso with a rich history in the development of railroading, a dip down into the Mitchell Caverns to see the wonders of stalagmites, stalactites and a new formation to us called shields. (that look like flat, cylindrical plates pressed against the cave wall or ceiling). We did an unsuccessful hunt for baby desert tortoises (a bit too early in the season), hiked into and climbed a canyon wall for a spectacular view. We also climbed down into volcanic lava tubes and saw vast Cinder Cones left after earthquakes as recent as 10,000 years ago.
There are still some hikes to be enjoyed on our next visit, the Mojave Joshua tree forest, the “burn over” of a few years ago to photograph and the Kelso Dunes to climb. Our departure date was uncertain and would be determined by the prospect of diminishing the high and eventually annoying winds.

Sunday morning arrived with no diminishing of the winds and a new surprise: SNOW. The snow had been forecast for above 5200’. So it was indeed, a surprise.
We decided to depart the Mojave to seek relief from the constant blowing and the cold. My skin is so dry from the cold and my arthritis is saying “hello.” The campground is almost empty leaving only 2 rigs plus that of the campground hosts and the single tenter remaining. Warmer weather is due to arrive in a few days. The spring wildflowers will continue to grow, the kangaroo rats will chew on campers belongings left unattended and the baby tortoises will hatch without our notice this year. We have much to look forward to on our next visit to the Mojave Desert, a place well-noted in history through folk lore, fiction and works of art.